“Philip Seymour Hoffman is another victim of extremely stupid drug laws,” writes Russell Brand in The Guardian on Feb. 6 at www.theguardian.com/ commentisfree/2014/feb/06/russell-brand-philip-seymour-hoffman-drug-laws I posted this Feb. 7 in the comments of his article:
What causes that “pain” which drives us to use? Russell calls it “the hole in me,” “the gutter within,” “the unfulfillable void,” his “private hell.” What causes “the hole in my soul,” as William Moyers dubs it in “Broken,” in the first place?
It’s all about “the hole in me.” Hardly anyone speaks of it – but “the hole” is the real problem. Hardly anyone speaks of it because 50% of the population in most OECD countries suffers some degree of it and it scares the heck out of us all.
Russell Brand says 10% have this pain so severely, they use hard drugs and alcohol. OECD statistics show upwards of 30% of us have it so bad we abuse food and are overweight to obese, which kills too. I’ve not seen statistics on child abuse, gambling, or “respectable business folk” like me or my ex husband who are work-aholics or addicted to sports, political power, abusive romance, internet porn, sex, and so on. That’s at least another 10% (if not far higher).
In fact, the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study of over 17,400 college-educated employed Americans done by top medical doctors shows that over 50% of Americans have some form of childhood trauma and of these, a significant percent suffer from food, alcohol, or other addictions.
Plus, it showed that we die prematurely of both these “hard” and “soft” addictions — the stress eats away our body parts. It shows ACE are the primary causes in the first place of heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, and the other top ten causes of death in the U.S.
Hole Under My Feet
I discovered “the hole in me” by accident. I never heard of it, either, after 50+ years of extensive education. After my divorce in 2008 I just starting saying “I have a hole in my heart” because I literally felt it in my chest.
In 2009 I got Dr. Robin Norwood’s “Women Who Love Too Much” which says that if we simply sit quietly, we can “feel the wind blowing through the empty place where our heart should be.” I could feel the hole in my chest. She notes that this is why we never sit quietly (without which cure is impossible). [FN1]
In 2010 I got “Motherless Daughters” by Hope Edelman, case studies of people who were little when their moms died, and a similar book by Dr. Maxine Harris. My Mom died in 2008; why read such books? It fell into my hands “by accident.” Yet time and again the case study subjects spoke of growing up feeling as though they had a “hole under their feet” or a “hole in the heart.” [FN2]
I started to bawl as it hit me that I’d felt as if I had a “hole under my feet’ all my conscious life. I just alternated between denial and praying my parents wouldn’t notice my terror. My first memory of TV was a documentary about open heart surgery on a “blue baby” with cardiac perforation. As the camera showed a scalpel probing a gap in bloody tissue, the announcer intoned, “Here is the hole in Julie’s heart.” I could never forget his voice.
Last month, I finally heard a specialist identify “the hole” as that which must be cured or nothing works. It was therapist Dr. Tara Brach in her talk “Reacting Wisely to Desire” (Aug.10, 2011) min 24: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hka8c4OteYA
She quotes William Moyers, an alcoholic activist, speaking at a scientific conference. “I was born with a ‘hole in my soul,’ a pain that came from the reality that I just wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t deserving enough, that you weren’t paying attention to me, that you didn’t like me,” he said. “For us addicts, recovery is more than a pill or a shot. Recovery is about dealing with that hole in the soul.”
“Drugs and alcohol are not my problem — reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution,” as Russell Brand told The Spectator March 9, 2013: www.spectator.co.uk/features/8857821/fixing-a-hole/
Parts of My Brain Are Dark
But what is this “reality” of so many human beings? What causes the “hole” and “private hell of pain” in the first place?
Science has only recently demonstrated that unless kids (and other mammals) are given solid emotional connection and eye contact (“attachment”) from birth by parents or others, infant neurological systems just don’t develop well. The infant brain literally requires programming by an adult’s eyes and facial expressions to begin to program its own neurons, dubbed “Limbic Resonance” and documented in “A General Theory of Love.” [FN3]
When a mother doesn’t respond to her baby this way (she’s being battered, stress at work, is unable to attune to others), the infant’s brain stem reads that as a survival threat. This floods its bloodstream with fight/flight stress chemicals. If an adult doesn’t make the baby feel safe, stress chemicals overwhelm its brain and within 45 minutes the baby goes into shock (dissociation). [FN4]
What began as emotional stress ends in physical brain damage. We can now do brain scans showing that whole chunks of neurons in some brain regions don’t fire; I felt this as “parts of my brain are dark.” There is literally a “hole in me.” You can see the dark holes in the brain scans above; the left side is a normal 3-year old, and the right side a 3-year-old with attachment disorder. [FN5] The pain we feel is immense; more in: http://attachmentdisorderhealing.com/ the-silent-epidemic-of-attachment-disorder/
That’s why an “attachment wound” made when a lover (for example) rejects us sends us running to our drug, as Russell almost did in March (see his Spectator piece). It touches the original wound, an infant or childhood wound buried deep and not accessible to consciousness.
“As a baby’s precarious neurophysiology falls under the steadying spell of his mother… he is modulating his emotions via an external source… an attuned parent can sooth him; he cannot sooth himself,” as “General Theory” reports. “As a consequence of thousands of these interactions, a child learns to self-quiet… The child of emotionally balanced parents will be resilient to life’s minor shocks…
“Those who miss out… find that in adulthood, their emotional footing pitches beneath them like the deck of a boat in rough waters. They are incomparably reactive to the loss of their anchoring attachments — without assistance,they are thrown back on threadbare resources. The end of a relationship is then not mere poignant, but incapacitating.” [FN3 op.cit., p.156-8]
That’s what Russell Brand said drove him off the edge and halfway down the freeway to a Santa Monica crack house just last year — his woman broke the attachment bond (see his March 2013 Guardian piece).
I’ve felt doubled over in just that way by romance so many times. Now I know why and I know what drove my addictions.
Alcoholics Anonymous Works
That’s why the “attachment wound” responds to the compassionate sound of a friend’s voice when Russell calls from LA to London; the pain eases for a day.
That’s why the “Anonymous” programs work: we have a wound made when we didn’t get the simple human acceptance and compassion that a child’s very brain needs to grow. When we walk into a room of co-sufferers and we receive that human acceptance, and compassion, it literally fires up some of those dark neurons in our brain, and the pain eases. With regular attendance, this can work for decades.
See “Addiction as an Attachment Disorder” by therapist Philip J. Flores. [FN6] See also numerous related studies in “Does Science Show What 12 Steps Know?,” Aug. 2013: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/08/130809-addiction-twelve-steps-alcoholics-anonymous-science-neurotheology-psychotherapy-dopamine/
But why do people like Philip Seymour Hersh or Russell Brand relapse after twenty or thirty years? Why do I still feel the occasional twinge from my old addictions, after four years clean and nearly 24 x 7 study of all this? (Hope it’s not my new addiction…) Blame genes if you like but I don’t buy it.
The “Anonymous” programs are as indispensable as food or water; without their “people support” we can’t even make a start. Yet they can’t possibly provide enough support or go deep enough to heal the original wound.
When will we see that “so many broken people” must be caused by society’s ignorance, and not by the individual user’s screw-up? Why is the true cause of all this pain never addressed? Society is militantly oblivious and illiterate about it. And why?
Some 50% of the population in most OECD countries suffers some degree of the childhood emotional pain of Attachment Disorder. There’s an Adult Attachment Interview which has been used by psychologists in enough studies to prove it since 1994. [FN7] The ACE Study backs this up with 17,400+ hard medical exam statistics.
The number is so high that the very existence of Attachment Disorder and of its symptoms are literally incomprehensible to most who suffer from it. Sufferers include large percentages of “high achievers” in business and government. Denial is rampant to the point of arrogance.
Our entire society is virtually structured for, and dedicated to, the precise purpose of providing these distractions from the “hole within.” Such distractions give us temporary bursts of endorphins to ease the pain. But since they can’t heal the real pain, we require more and more of our addictions until the stress kills us.
Fact is, 50% of us have some degree of “hole within,” and 40% are in denial. The other 50% are uneducated.
Until the “hole in the brain” from Adult Attachment Disorder, and the causes of Adult Attachment Disorder are addressed, the 40% who don’t use hard-core drugs or booze, will go on wagging their fingers at the 10% who do use – blaming the wounded for the wound. These superior folks have the same wound killing them, only more slowly.
We need mass education to publicize the cause of the “hole in the soul” so that people know not to walk around all their lives thinking they are the only one on earth who feels it. We need publicity to wake up the many who don’t feel the hole because their hyperactivity and addictions numb them – especially those in high places.
Congressmen check their cholesterol, but Adverse Childhood Experiences are the real cause of heart disease as the ACE Study shows. If they knew the truth, wouldn’t they get an ACE score and an Adult Attachment Interview (AAI) check-up?
People need to know to go for help – and to know that if they go for help, they won’t be stigmatized, as they are today, but supported. We need more publicly-supported programs modeled on the Anonymous groups for healing hearts and minds. We need those groups in every flavor, for every addiction, in every city and town. We need them to be publicly supported so that large numbers of people know that it’s ok to go for help.
We need a referral system so that people in enough pain after doing all – like Russell and me – get referred to therapy. We need a real mental health system in which therapy has insurance which makes it feasible, not a pipe dream as it is today for 99.99% of Americans.
“General Theory of Love” also demonstrates in depth that a huge percent of therapists haven’t healed their own “hole inside me” and so are tone deaf and clueless about how to heal. We need a serious overhaul of our therapy training programs and remedial re-education programs for therapists now in practice.
Why the big deal? Huge numbers of our population are in pain so bad they’d rather die than live with it.
Kathy’s news blogs expand on her book “DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME: The Silent Epidemic of Attachment Disorder—How I accidentally regressed myself back to infancy and healed it all.” Watch for the continuing series each Friday, as she explores her journey of recovery by learning the hard way about Attachment Disorder in adults, adult Attachment Theory, and the Adult Attachment Interview.
FN1 Norwood, Robin, PhD, “Women Who Love Too Much,” Pocket Books, New York, 1985
FN2 Edelman, Hope, “Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss,” Da Capo Press, 2006. See also: Harris, Maxine, PhD, “The Loss That Is Forever: The Lifelong Impact of the Early Death of a Mother or Father,” Penguin Books, New York, 1996
FN3 Lewis, Thomas, MD; Amini, Fari, MD; Lannon, Richard, MD; “A General Theory of Love”, Random House, New York, 2000. Dr. Lannon interviews at: www.paulagordon.com/shows/lannon/
FN4 Herman, Judith, PhD, “Trauma and Recovery,” Basic Books, New York, 1992
FN5 Perry, Bruce, MD, “Overview of Neuro-sequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT),” www.childtrauma.org, 2010
FN6 Flores, Philip J., PhD, “Addiction as an Attachment Disorder,” Jason Aronson, Inc., 2004: “Addiction is a disorder in self-regulation. Individuals who become dependent on addictive substances cannot regulate their emotions, self-care, self-esteem, and relationships.”
FN7 Ainsworth, Mary D.S., Blehar, M.C., et al, “Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the Strange Situation,” Erlbaum, Hillsdale, NJ, 1978. See also: George, C., Kaplan, N., Main, Mary, “An Adult Attachment Interview,” Unpublished MS, University of California at Berkeley, 1994
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